Bernhard Langer celebrated his 59th birthday on Saturday night by reuniting with two married couples at a local restaurant whom he met in Germany nearly 30 years ago.
True to his understated nature, Langer blew out the candles on a homemade birthday cake, and called it an early night.
Then on Sunday, he lit the Champions Tour’s on fire with six back-nine birdies, and survived a three-man sudden-death playoff against Woody Austin and Kevin Sutherland, to capture the Boeing Classic for a second time at TPC Snoqualmie Ridge.
Langer closed with a 5-under-par 67 to tie Sutherland (low final round of 64) and Austin (67) at 13-under 203.
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Then on the first playoff hole — the uphill-finishing par 5 — Langer made a tournament-clinching birdie to win his fourth Champions Tour event of the year. It was also Langer’s 29th win of his Champions Tour career, tying him with Lee Trevino for second all-time behind Hale Irwin (45).
Also the tournament champion in 2010, Langer became the second multiple winner of the Boeing Classic, joining Tom Kite (2006, 2008).
Did we mention Langer just turned 59, and still is the man to beat on the 50-and-over circuit?
“I call him a robot, you know,” Austin said. “He just doesn’t make too many mistakes. And when he gets hot with that broom (long putter) — you can’t beat that broom.”
Langer made the turn to the exciting back nine at TPC Snoqualmie Ridge 1-over on his round, and tied for 14th in the tournament — six strokes behind overnight leader Gene Sauers.
“Maybe that cake slowed me down a bit on the front nine,” Langer joked.
But Langer rolled in a 35-foot uphill putt for birdie at the 10th hole, and that began a whole different tale.
“You never know, this game is so crazy,” Langer said. “I’ve seen it just about all (happen).”
And the birdies kept coming — at No. 11 (5-footer), and at No. 12 (10-footer). He nearly aced No. 13, the downhill par 3, leading to a four consecutive birdie.
While Langer was getting hot ahead of him, Sauers — who won the U.S. Senior Open two weeks ago for his first Champions Tour triumph — was sputtering.
Sauers lost the lead for good at the 14th hole — the downhill par 4 over “Bear’s Canyon.” After laying up safely in the fairway, he blocked his approach shot right in a deep bunker. He made bogey, and finished with an even-par 72 to finish one shot out of the playoff.
“Just one of those days, I guess,” Sauers said.
On the extra hole, Sutherland and Austin got into deep bunkers — Sutherland off the tee and Austin with his second shot.
Sutherland’s 20-foot birdie putt from the front fringe never had a chance, dying left. Austin played a fantastic shot out of a rake mark from the right bunker, but he also missed his birdie bid from 10 feet.
After chipping on from in front of the green, Langer calmly brushed in the winning 3-footer, pumping his fist and tossing his visor onto the green in excitement.
With his winner’s check of $300,000, Langer became the first golfer to crack the $1 million career earnings at the Boeing Classic.
“(Winning) will get harder. I am going to get shorter, sooner or later — and some of these younger guys hit it past me,” Langer said. “But it is more than length — you need to be precise, and have the nerve.
“There’s still a bit of life left in me.”
Many of the automated leaderboards on the back nine malfunctioned. Austin admitted not knowing where he stood in the tournament — he figured he was trailing Sauers — prompting him to go for the 15th green in two shots, leading to an untimely bogey at the par 5. “If I would have known I was tied … no way I would have gone for it,” Austin said. … Fan favorite John Daly closed with a 69, tying for 21st at 5-under 211 in his tournament debut. … It was the sixth playoff in 12 Boeing Classic tournaments.
At TPC SNOQUALMIE RIDGE
x—won on first playoff hole